Siege of Dorostolon

Siege of Dorostolon

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Dorostolon
partof=the Rus'-Byzantine War
place=Dorostolon (modern flagicon|Bulgaria Silistra, Bulgaria)
result=Byzantine victory
commander1=John I Tzimisces
commander2=Svyatoslav I of Kiev
strength1=40,000 menW. Treadgold, "A History of the Byzantine State and Society", 509]
strength2=60,000 menW. Treadgold, "A History of the Byzantine State and Society", 509]
casualties1=unknown, 350 killed in the last battle (Leo the Deacon)
casualties2=38,000, of which 15,000 killed in the last battleW. Treadgold, "A History of the Byzantine State and Society", 509 calculated as the difference between the initial strength of Svyatoslav's army as reported by Leo the Deacon (60,000) and the number of Rus warriors receiving bread rations for their travel home after the truce (22,000)]

The Battle of Dorostolon was fought in 971 between the Byzantine Empire and forces of Kievan Rus. The Byzantines, led by John I Tzimisces, were victorious.

In the course of the Russo-Bulgarian war, Svyatoslav I of Kiev overran the eastern part of the First Bulgarian Empire and established his capital at Pereyaslavets on the Danube. Once John I usurped the throne, the Byzantines launched a counteroffensive. After they defeated the united Russo-Bulgarian forces in the Battle of Arcadiopolis and recaptured Pereyaslavets, Svyatoslav was forced to flee to the northern fortress of Dorostolon (Drustur/Dorostorum).

Emperor John proceeded to lay siege to Dorostolon, which lasted for sixty five days. His army was reinforced by a fleet of 300 ships equipped with Greek fire.W. Treadgold, "A History of the Byzantine State and Society", 509] There were several engagements before the walls of the city; they demonstrated to the Byzantines that the Rus' lack the skills of cavalry warfare. Among the casualties were the Emperor's relative, Ioannes Kourkouas (whose severed head was demonstrated by the Rus from one of the towers) and the second-in-command in Svyatoslav's army, a certain Ikmor (he was killed by Anemas, a son of the Cretan emir, in revenge for Ikmor's assassination of his father during the Byzantine siege of Crete).

The Rus and their Bulgarian allies were reduced to extremities by famine. In order to appease their gods, they drowned babies and chicken in the Danube, but the sacrifices failed to improve their position. As their hardships became intense, 2,000 Rus warriors (including some women) sallied out at night, defeated a Byzantine force and went in search of supplies to the Danube; they later rejoined the besieged.

The Rus felt they could not break the siege and agreed to sign a peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire, whereby they renounced their interests towards the Bulgarian lands and the city of Chersonesos in Crimea. Svyatoslav bitterly remarked that all his allies (Magyars, Pechenegs) betrayed him during this decisive moment. He was allowed to evacuate his army to Berezan Island, while the Byzantines entered Dorostolon and renamed it Theodoropolis, after the reigning empress.

The siege is described in detail by John Skylitzes and Leo the Deacon, although some of their assertions (e.g., Sveneld's death during the siege) appear to be apocryphal. Characteristically, Leo the Deacon attributes the victory to Saint Theodore Stratelates, who purportedly led the Byzantine army under the walls of Dorostolon.



*Andrey Nikolayevich Sakharov. "Svyatoslav's Diplomacy". Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 1982.
*Fyodor Uspensky. "The History of the Byzantine Empire", vol. 2. Moscow: Mysl, 1997.

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